Big game is giving Hill a welcome headache
EXMOUTH coach Jon Hill faces a dilemma ahead of Saturday's crunch home encounter with Weston-super-Mare.
Victory will give second-placed Cockles a big advantage in the promotion race as it could put them as many as nine points clear of Weston in third spot.
Defeat would allow Weston to get back on terms with Exmouth – and because of their superior points difference they would regain second place.
It is no exaggeration to say Exmouth are heading into must-win territory, and the problem facing Hill is who to pick.
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The Cockles went to Amersham & Chiltern last Saturday and won 20-12 despite having an unavailability list stretching into double figures – many of whom are now returning.
"Playing without Lloyd Morgan, Stuart Lowe, Jack Westlake, Ross Morshead, Will Hodgetts, Matt Garner, Mark Wathes, Ali Hill, Jack Downie and Paul Morgan certainly tested our resources," said Hill.
"We escaped with no injuries and a number of players hoping to return to the squad.
"There are a number of selection headaches ahead, which is a lovely position to be in leading up to a huge game at home next week."
Amersham were a banana skin lying in wait for Exmouth, and Hill said he was relieved to come away with four points.
"With 10 first team players missing, I was delighted to have won a game against a side who are better than their league position suggests," said Hill.
"Amersham's recent recruitment, mainly of Australian and Samoan players, made them a real handful at times.
"That said, we did not concede a try and Amersham only spent two periods of play inside our 22 in the whole game. Andrew Powell and Jon Fabian helped us to dominate territory with a superb kicking game.
"A great line-out and a superb scrum were the foundations of our play, and gave us good go-forward ball against a well-organised blitz defence.
"Tom Kill made good inroads into opposition territory with clean line breaks."
Newton Abbot have injury problems to settle one way or the other before th visit of Avonmouth Old Boys.
Scrum-half Matt Newman has not played for six weeks because of a knee injury and the All Whites want him back.
Newton are going nowhere in the league, but do have designs on the Devon Senior Cup and could do with Newman back before they visit Exmouth on Easter Saturday in the semis.
Fellow No. 9 Luke Smith is out for the rest of the season after dislocating a shoulder in the game against Redingensians three weeks ago.
Luke's brother Josh is a possible fill in at scrum-half. He also has a shoulder injury.
Ben Cole (throat) is rated at less than 50-50 in the back row, although that is an area Newton are reasonably well covered in.
It is not all doom and gloom, though, as prop Alex Gale is poised to return after injury.
Whatever side they pick, it will be close to the one they will send to Exmouth a week later.
With a tough cup game coming up, director of rugby Roy Henderson said Avonmouth are ideal preparation.
"Although we are going to finish mid-table, Avonmouth are still involved in the relegation battle," he said. "I think Avonmouth will be safe, but no doubt they will feel a lot safer with another win under their belt and I anticipate a tough game."